Once, while I was swimming on the slow side of our family's creek, I saw that someone had left pink pistachio shells on the muddy bank and I asked Mama if they were seashells.
She said no, but I put them in the pocket of my pink corduroy overalls anyways. To 4-year-old me, they were precious treasures, scavenged from the sandy banks of the creek that ran behind my grandparents' goat farm. I spent lots of summer days wiggling my toes in the silty sand while the big kids swam and cannon balled and splashed one another.
I was always afraid of the big rocks that Uncle Mark and Daddy and the big kids climbed to jump off. It was only a small drop, made to seem bigger by the fact that I still could not brush my teeth without using my step-stool.
Either way, I was too afraid.
There was a tree that hung over the creek right at the jumping-off point and it shadowed the water and made it cold and frightening. As a child, those were the two things I feared the most.
Even still, I do not like shadows, I do not like cold.
I climbed up to the top by myself once, there were spent lemon wedges up there.
Cousin Amber used to take me up there with her when she wanted to lay out in the sun but was stuck babysitting me instead.
She'd roll her eyes at me if I looked apprehensive about climbing up, and then she'd just throw me over her shoulder and drag me to the top while I pouted in her arms.
(This happened often, though she always gave me the option of choosing to climb by myself.)
She'd roll out her towel, toss my trusty sock monkey, Zeffir, at me and squeeze lemon juice into my sandy blond hair. Most of the time, I would fall asleep on her towel with Zeffir under my face and one hand tangled up in my own hair; my blue bathing suit sagging low on my bottom.
The very last time I went up on that rock, Zeffir and I napped far too close to the edge. I woke up in a panic, feeling weightless as I plummeted into the cold, dark water, still clutching him by the tail. My feet felt the bottom of the creek and I pushed off. I opened my eyes before I made it to the surface, and saw the sunlight waiting for me.
As I broke the surface I started screaming and I frog-kicked my way to the bank and Zeffir and I stomped out, yelling and angry (but mostly scared). That was the last time I went in the creek, and then we moved away.
I didn't have one worry, except that cold, shadowy spot in the water. Now that I am a self-proclaimed grown-up, I pray that one day, I will not need to take Zeffir (yes, I still have him) with me into dark places, and that my future children never see how scared Mommy is when she darts down the dark hall.
Many thanks to Google Earth, I can still visit the farm and see the creek. You can too, if you click this link:
It will start you off on the bridge connecting our property with the neighbors. If you look to the right, you'll see the faster side of the creek. Lots of rocks with water rushing around. On the left, if you look far enough down the creek, you can see the jumping rocks that I reference and the tree that overhangs the water, though it has now been grossly cut back.
(I used to have the link here, but it was broken.)
This is Zeffir and I at age 16.